Before the Christmas break, artist Paul Needham, art teachers Karen and Natalie (along with the Deputy Headteacher), Louise – Curator of Secondary Learning at the museum and I met up at St Peters to plan a project in which we would collaborate together. Karen and Natalie were both really enthusiastic about working with Paul and the museum and we talked about how we should bring Paul’s work into their existing curriculum and planned how to make best use of the time available.
The first sessions in school were lively and energetic. Paul is working with two classes at St Peters so one session was followed by the other, though they were far from identical! Paul’s premis was that there can be many answers to the same question. So by asking things like “What can’t you photograph?”, “What isn’t this ball?”, and “Draw something you can play”, Paul got the class to start thinking about their own personal responses to objects.
Some hands on creativity also went on with the students being asked to make a structure that would hold a tennis ball in the air using only wooden skewers and masking tape. A seemingly straightforward task, but of the ten or so groups making a structure, there were at least ten different outcomes. This activity really seemed to focus the student’s attention and Paul has set himself the task of thinking about how he will work with the student’s strengths when they come to the museum.
Paul rounded up the session by talking about his own work. The students reacted confindently and perceptively asking provocative questions like “Have you got a lot of time on your hands?” and more considered quesions like, “How much money do you sell your work for?”, “How did you make that?”, “How long did it take?” . They also showed palpable pleasure in working out how Paul’s art work functioned and took easily to a type of art which was quite unfamiliar to them. While Paul’s work is very conceptual and playful it is also very crafted, including a lasoo carved from wood, an elastic band moulded around a railing and a long pole made from match sticks. Paul shared these two ideas really well with the session divided between wordplay and creative making.